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South Carolina Business License

Once you have registered your business in South Carolina, the next step is to check if your business requires a license or a permit. A business license is required in most of the states for a variety of businesses but then on the other hand, not all businesses require a license to operate. As a business entity you may require a permit instead of a license while some businesses may require multiple licenses or permit.

Who oversees the issuance of a business permit or license? The process of issuance of a business license in South Carolina is governed by the state or the city or county. State-wide licenses issued in South Carolina are:

  • Retail Sales and Use Tax
  • Alcoholic Beverage Licenses

Apart from the above, most of the permits and license issuance is regulated by each county in the state. It can be a confusing process initially especially if a new business is planning to apply for a license. Hence, we have created a short guide to help businesses understand the process. Download SC Business Resource Guide

Step-by-Step Guide to South Carolina Business License Process

Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring a business license in the state of South Carolina.

Step#1: The Industry or Business Type

How would you know what type of business or professional license is required to operate in South Carolina? The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required. Different types of licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies or counties.

Let’s look at an example to understand this well.

Alcohol Beverage Licensing

Some businesses will require a South Carolina company license while others will require a permit.

Chapter 4 of Title 61 indicates that manufacturing, sale, and distribution, of beer and wine will be regulated through issuance of winery, brewery, wholesale, and retail permits.

  • License issued by: South Carolina Department of Revenue, Alcohol Beverage Licensing.
  • Fee: The fee will vary according to the type of business or activity like Alcoholic Liquor Producer or Importer will require a business license and the fee is $400 biennially. Expiry of the license is August 31 on even numbered years. On the other hand, a Food Service Establishment serving Beer and Wine will require a permit and the fee is $600 and there is also a non-refundable filing fee of $300.


Food Service Establishment

If you are planning to start a Retail Food Establishment then you will be required to apply for a business license. There are different types of food establishments covered under this license and that includes Restaurant/Convenience Store, Sushi preparation onsite, Grocery Store including Meat or seafood Market, Deli and Bakery; Mobile Food; Immediate Outdoor Cooking; and Shared Use Operations/Commissary.

  • License Issued by: S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)
  • Fee: Every applicant will have to pay a $60 inspection fee


Step#2: Licenses issued by City/County

Since all licenses are issued by the state, business entities need to apply for their respective business license in South Carolina locally. Most of the towns as well as municipalities require a license for conducting business including the following counties:

  • Charleston County
  • Beaufort County
  • Dorchester County
  • Jasper County
  • Horry County
  • Marion County
  • Sumter County
  • Richland County

Let’s look at an example to understand this.

If you are planning to set up your business in Charleston then you will require an annual business license. The license application is divided into three categories and they are:

  • Application for a New For-Profit Business
  • Commercial locations have to fill out Business License Certificate of Occupancy Application
  • Home-based business requires Home Occupation Application.

All licenses are categorized under a rate class starting from 1 to 8 like automobile dealers and amusement parks are covered under Rate Class 8 while food manufacturing is classified under Rate Class 2. Rate Classification Index

The South Carolina company license fee will vary according to the rate class and you can check the calculation of fee here.

The license would be issued by the Licensing Clerk of Charleston, Revenue Collections Division

Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

How is a business license in South Carolina issued? You have to identify the following to complete the process:

  1. The type of business or industry
  2. Do you need a license or a permit?
  3. Will it be issued by the state or the county?

Once you have identified the above, all you need to do is either download the application online or contact the concerned state department or city of clerk office.

It is important to note that a business license or permit will have to be renewed annually unless specific dates have been mentioned, to keep the business operational.

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